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WI National Guard adjusts to new role fighting COVID-19 pandemic

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin National Guard is keeping busy transporting medical supplies, assisting senior centers with staffing shortages and preparing to help health care workers in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Guard's top commander Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp spoke to 27 News in an exclusive interview about their duties during this pandemic, which has infected nearly 600 people and killed seven in Wisconsin. 

This week, the Guard began training to collect specimen samples and learning about testing procedures in anticipation the health care system will become overwhelmed.

Knapp said he has not received any request for assistance but will be ready to step up when needed.

“We know as the testing capability ramps up, the ability for them in the clinical environment to run those tests will be short and when that happens will people be prepared to go and help,” said Knapp.

Currently, the Guard is transporting medical supplies like masks and personal protective equipment across the state.

Knapp also told 27 News it’s been an adjustment fighting something they've never dealt with, but said they remain ready to lend a hand during this pandemic.

“Almost every day we're coming up against things that we've never handled before and we're doing a great job in our efforts and all working together to get to the other side of this COVID-19 crisis."

MISSIONS COMPLETE:

The Wisconsin National Guard helped a senior care facility in Ozaukee County to cover staff shortages after patients got sick and one man died from the coronavirus. For three days, a team was deployed to Village Pointe Commons to assist the staff until they found proper staffing needs.

A week ago, 37 Wisconsin residents were safely transported to their homes by the Guard after being in quarantine on the Grand Princess Cruise ship, which was docked in California after several passengers became infected.

SAFER AT HOME ORDER

The Guard is not responsible for enforcing the governor's “Safer At Home” order. Knapp said dozens of people are misinterpreting it, believing the Guard will be patrolling the streets, which is not true.

“There’s been no discussion or asks from the governor's office for the National Guard to enforce the order,” he said. “The order is very clear . Guidance will be enforced at the local level and the Guard will not play a role.”

You can watch more of Knapp's interview on 27 News this Sunday at 9 a.m.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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